Dieting for Cyclists

With the offseason around the corner, that also means that the best time of the year to lose a few lbs is almost here. When racing and hard training is going on, it's best to not restrict calories because of the danger of losing muscle mass. In the offseason, you can be a little more aggressive about restricting calories because later you will have time to rebuild any muscles lost during the weight-lifting portion of the offseason.

Just about everyone I've talked to has strong opinions on diet and dieting, and I know many athletes will agree and many will disagree with me on these. I'm also not a dietician, or have any credentials. My beliefs are based on my own research and trial and error, and I also believe that what works for one person doesn't work for another.

My belief is that shifting daily calorie consumption to proteins and restricting carbs, along with consuming complex carbs 4-24hrs before training, is the way to maximize weight loss while reducing muscle/fitness loss during a calorically constricted diet.

 According to Joe Friel’s The Cyclist’s Training Bible pg 248, protein is crucial:

“Protein is so important to the athlete that it may even determine the outcome of races. A study of Olympians by the International Center for Sports Nutrition in Omaha, Nebraska, comparing the diets of medal winners and nonmedalists found just one significant difference between the two groups: The medal winners ate more protein than those who did not win a medal.
[…]
Protein is more important for endurance athletes than for those in power sports, such as American football, baseball and basketball. An intense, one-hour criterium can cause the depletion of up to 30 grams of protein, about the amount of protein contained in a 3-ounce can of tuna. Replacing these loses is critical to recovery and improved fitness. Without such replenishment, the endurance athlete’s body is forced to cannibalize protein from muscle.”

In other words, if you don't have enough protein, you will be lighter, but you will also be weaker, which defeats the purpose.

CLASSIC WAYS TO LOSE WEIGHT

Ride tons of miles while keeping your caloric intake the same.

Quit drinking alcohol.

Don't eat anything fried, don't eat anything processed.

There are lots of other weight loss methods. I know a racer who swore by cutting out fat, meat, and alcohol. He was pretty cut. There are plenty of methods that work. Regardless, a racer's weight (well, muscles vs fat) is a crucial piece of the strength + weight + cardio + equipment + team + technique + strategic + luck equation it takes to be a winner.